Published Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011 | 5 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011 | 10:12 p.m.
- Take Five: Getting to know Hawaii (9-16-2011)
- Following a slow start, Payne hoping to kick-start senior season against Hawaii (9-15-2011)
- UNLV defense must rebound fast as pass-happy Hawaii comes calling (9-13-2011)
- UNLV’s road woes continue in 59-7 thumping at Washington State (9-11-2011)
- 2011 UNLV Football Schedule/Results
- All UNLV Football Coverage
Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer take a closer look at this weekend's UNLV home opener at Sam Boyd Stadium, as the struggling Rebels defense will hardly have a soft landing from its two tough road trips, welcoming in the always prolific Hawaii Warriors for a Saturday night showdown. Does UNLV have a chance? What type of result would be considered a success?
Final, UNLV wins 40-20
A one-yard touchdown plunge by Bradley Randle with five minutes remaining made it all but official, as UNLV pulled off a monster upset of future Mountain West mate Hawaii Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium, 40-20.
The victory was UNLV's fourth in its last five home meetings with the Warriors, who dropped to 1-2 on the season. The Rebels improved to 1-2, and now have a golden opportunity to even out their 2011 record next Saturday when FCS foe Southern Utah comes to town for a 6 p.m. contest.
The two biggest improvements from last weekend's rough 59-7 loss at Washington State were in the trenches. On the offensive line, the Rebels blew Hawaii off of the ball on almost every snap, producing a strong running game and protecting sophomore quarterback Caleb Herring. Herring was 17-of-29 for 178 yards with two touchdowns. He hit Phillip Payne seven times for 98 yards and both TD tosses. Meanwhile, Tim Cornett and Bradley Randle for 184 rushing yards off of 30 carries with three touchdowns.
On defense, the Rebels forced multiple turnovers, were constantly in Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz's face and never allowed the Warriors to run the ball effectively. They didn't get into the positive numbers as a team for rushing yards until the final minutes.
For full coverage of Saturday's game, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels.
14:28 remaining, Fourth Quarter, UNLV leads 33-14
The potential for an upset now really feels real out at Sam Boyd Stadium.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Tim Cornett plunged into the end zone from one yard out, and after a failed two-point conversion attempt, the Rebels lead Hawaii 33-14 with 14:28 left to play.
Cornett now has 101 yards and two scores off of nine carries, and the onus is now on UNLV's strengthened defense to keep its strong effort going.
The second half started with Hawaii squandering an opportunity of its own by fumbling the opening kickoff. One play later, UNLV senior receiver Phillip Payne made a sensational catch over two defenders for a 33-yard score.
Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz then fumbled on the first play of the Warriors' next drive, and Nolan Kohorst then nailed a career-long 50-yard field gaol to give UNLV a 27-7 lead. Hawaii would respond with a Moniz connection to Justin Clapp from 24 yards out on fourth-and-eight, but the Warriors simply have not been able to string scoring possessions together consecutively.
UNLV's defense continues to hold strong, and has held Hawaii to -19 rushing yards.
As for Payne, his monster night now includes seven catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns, giving him five touchdown catches now in three career games against Hawaii.
Halftime, UNLV leads 17-7
UNLV had a chance to firmly put a foot on Hawaii's collective throat just before the half, but let a golden scoring opportunity get by. Still, the Rebels' 17-7 lead over the visiting Warriors so far is a pretty dominant one, as the defense continues to play strong following last weekend's debacle at Washington State.
Hawaii strung together a nice scoring drive late in the first half, but UNLV kept them from building on it on their final drive of the second quarter. The Rebels then took the ball down inside the Warriors' 10-yard line, but a 28-yard field goal attempt by Nolan Kohorst missed after Caleb Herring overthrew open receivers on second and third down.
Herring was solid in the first half. He still has yet to commit a turnover this season, and was 12-of-18 in the first 30 minutes for 88 yards and a score. He got star senior receiver Phillip Payne more involved in the offense, and he's also had the support of a strong rushing attack. Thanks to an 80-yard TD scamper, Tim Cornett has his first career 100-yard rushing effort, with 101 yards on six carries so far. Bradley Randle has added 33 yards on five totes.
On the other side, Bryant Moniz has been far from awful, going 14-of-21 for 143 yards and a score, but UNLV has recorded three sacks so far tonight and held Hawaii to -20 rushing yards.
That's where UNLV has to remain the strongest. Hawaii's rushing game was far from dominant coming into this game, and nothing has changed. They're only 1-of-5 on third downs to boot. UNLV's defensive personnel and coaches deserve a ton of credit for this turnaround, but the key is now making it stick and count for something.
Hawaii will get the ball coming out of the half. That first possession could dictate how the rest of this game goes, as the Warriors are known for scoring in bunches.
End of First Quarter, UNLV leads 10-0
Talk about a complete one-eighty.
After being embarrassed on both sides of the ball a week ago on both sides of the ball, UNLV looks like a completely different team so far tonight against Hawaii. The defense has forced a pair of Hawaii punts, recorded two sacks of Warriors star QB Bryant Moniz, and an 80-yard TD run by Tim Cornett provided the early fireworks as the Rebels lead 10-0.
The Rebels caught an early break to get it all going. After going three-and-out on the game's first possession, a muffed punt by Hawaii set UNLV back up near midfield. A few plays later, Nolan Kohorst got the scoring started with a 41-yard field goal.
James Dunlap recorded a huge sack on Hawaii's first drive, which stalled near midfield, and after a punt went into the end zone, Cornett took the ball up the left side on the first play of UNLV's ensuing drive. He then ran away from three Warriors defenders en route to a monster score.
In the first quarter, UNLV out-gained Hawaii 116-85, while Moniz is a modest 7-of-10 for 59 yards so far.
On defense, the Rebels simply look better in all aspects tonight. They're rushing Moniz, covering receivers consistently and playing with far more energy than they have at any point this season. Could a monster of an upset be in the making?
It's been a series of misadventures so far in the 2011 season for the UNLV football team, but at least now the Rebels finally get a chance to play on their home turf.
UNLV (0-2) kicks off tonight at 7 p.m. against Hawaii (1-1) at Sam Boyd Stadium, and the Rebels enter as roughly three-touchdown underdogs. There's good reason behind that number, but most obvious is the fact that the Rebels' seemingly overmatched defense has allowed more than 1,100 yards of total offense in two games, leading to 110 combined points scored between Wisconsin and Washington State.
I've said time and time again this week that UNLV needs to turn this one into a shootout if it wants a chance to get its first victory of the season. After seeing the defense up close a week ago at WSU, I left convinced that Bobby Hauck and his staff needed more than six days to correct what went wrong, because there was plenty. It's going to be a season-long issue, it appears.
But the offense couldn't get going, either, last week.
If Caleb Herring & Co. are going to get things rolling tonight against a Warriors defense that struggled itself a week ago in a loss at Washington, here's what needs to go right …
1) The offensive line simply needs to be consistent. Against Wisconsin, the unit that includes three freshmen allowed UNLV to pick up 3.8 yards per run play. That averaged dropped by a full yard last week, and without being able to establish a run game, the offense never took off, setting up several unmanageable third-and-long situations.
2) They need to score on their first possession. If UNLV gets the ball first, it means giving itself an early upper hand. If Hawaii gets the ball first and scores, it means they're sending a message that this one will be a track meet.
3) Phillip Payne needs to have a big game, plain and simple. I documented his strong history against Hawaii in a Sun story earlier this week. He'll be key tonight if UNLV wants to make this thing competitive.
As for a prediction tonight, I've got to take Hawaii. There's no reason for me not to, plain and simple. I'll say the Warriors head back to the islands on the heels of a 52-20 victory.
I'll be around on Twitter all night to chat with you as the game continues on. Stay here on the blog for game updates, and to go back and forth with yours truly, make sure to follow me at twitter.com/ryanmgreene. Also, make sure to add the #UNLV and #unlvfb tags to your in-game tweets for them to show up below.